Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April :: Making moments

Wow. With all that has happened this month, travel and birthdays and tax preparation, I feel like making has taken a bit of a back seat. And this always leaves me feeling a little unsettled. Me no like. So Monday I took a few minutes to push all the new toys scattered throughout the house out of my peripheral vision and got to work at the machine.

A few weeks ago I caved in to the pressure to add to my already burgeoning bookcase of craft books and added a Denise Schmidt book (what can I say, I was ordering this from Amazon and had to qualify for the free shipping). It is a great introduction into the DSQ way which seems a little bit funky and very verbose. The book has two sections, one focused on small projects and the other actual quilt patterns. I loved the idea of pieced scrap cards and took that on this week.
thank you cards
It was such a simple way to use what we have and make something special to say 'Thanks' to the lovely family and folks that literally showered the boys with new things. I used the pattern in the book as inspiration but knew I had to make quite a few so here is what I did ::

1. I Cut strips of scrap as long as a regular piece of regular cardstock (8.5 by 11.5 I think) then sewed them to the page until the blank piece of cardstock was covered. Important :: You must press each piece to get a nice fold. Other than that, don't be too fussy.

2. Trim the overhanging fabric and then cut the card into four pieces. Also cut extra blank cardstock for the back of the card.

3. Using sewing machine and wide zigzag stitch, sew the fabric and blank piece together, just catching the fabric piece which will allow you to fold the card nicely.
thank you cards

4. Straight stitch around the fabric edges to keep the pieced fabric from rolling and turning under.
thank you cards
I found that I could crank out quite a few in an hour and they are signed and ready to be mailed as of yesterday afternoon. I love that they feel as special as the people that gathered but cost nothing as I had all the supplies on hand. And I think I might go back and make a few more just to have for those times when you want a special something to throw into the mail box.
thank you cards

Tomorrow...more of is a sneak peek...

And I did not think I could deepen my love or obsession with all things Alabama Chanin. I was wrong.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April :: Birthday Party :: Take three

I am going to post about the boys' third birthday party but I am going to preface it with a statement. I read this blog post linked from a friend's tweet and though I found some of it a little harsh, I have to say so much of what she said resonated with me. (If you do not read the linked piece, it is about the 'perfect' crafting blogs where everything just looks, well, perfect. And believe me, I do not put myself in that category at all but feel like I have read that category and felt those feelings of envy and bewilderment at the level of achievement and a bit flabberghasted at the lack of, uh, mess in all of it). But it did make me think before I wrote this up. When I write here I try to encapsulate the lovely with the real, no post represents the whole of it and you will never convince me to post a picture of the bedlam that our bedroom can be, but it is far from 'perfect' around here, even though I like taking pictures like this because it just looks pretty.

Birthday Party Take III

In reality, the banner I made last year is missing an "i" and the "&" and I ironed and hung it 15 minutes before people starting showing up and decided that no "i" was going to stop me from hanging that banner (because it was hella' work, you know?).

Birthday Party Take III
Birthday Party Take III

Last year we wanted to give the boys a fun celebration and acknowledge the fact that we had skimped a bit on their first birthday. This year I barely had time to plan or craft, but still wanted to do something special. We settled on a home party with a few good 'little' friends, some treats and cake and Cuban food. The boys have not really found a good bond with any of their 'school' friends but we have ties to some wonderful other littles through our community. Of course, they turn out to be mostly girls. It was a blast to watch the small hoard of 10 kids, girls (6) boys (4) run rough and tumble through the yard, wreaking havoc in a good way, as only little can do.
Birthday Party Take III

There were plans for a simple scavenger hunt but that was too ambitious of a plan and so it fell by the wayside...
Birthday Party Take III
given up in lieu of Mason's one birthday request..."Me have candy everywhere...bowls and bowls of candy" (direct quote). Owen really could have cared less as long as the neighbor Clarissa was there...imagine how bewildered he must have felt when he realized that there were 5 'other' Clarissa's there at the same time (I am not sure original Clarissa was too jazzed either).

There were cakes using this recipe which tasted lovely, and this year I figured frosting could look however frosting wanted to as three year olds just want candles and cars on their cakes.
Birthday Party Take III
Birthday Party Take III

Not one picture of the candle blowing out came out clear but I like this one because we all look happy and that is all that matters.
Birthday Party Take III

It was fun and funny and full of impromptu water balloon fights by both children and adults (actually there was paying off the small children in order to get to the adults which was even funnier).

It was hard to keep Mace clothed, he spent the better part of the morning in his original birthday suit (with crown, of course).
Birthday Party Take III
It was impossible to get a shot of Owen's face so we stopped trying. The house still looks like it was hit by a tornado (well, in a way it was).
Birthday Party Take III
But I had fun. And that is really what it is all about. They have embraced play wholeheartedly and so learn from them.

What I am finding out as a Mama that likes to make, has to work and hates to clean is that there is a healthy place in it all. I am not and never will be a Marthette, it exhausts me to think about trying. I know I will always try to make and craft and create for the boys because it validates me and my love for them. I know I will always take pictures (sometimes the exact same picture over and over year after year) because it gives me great pleasure and happiness. I know there will always be a flaw, a fly in the ointment, because that is how it works out for me.
Birthday Party Take III

I am also learning it is only a flaw in a certain light....viewed through another lens, it is just Life. Fun and silly, rushed and sweaty, done or not done, we have to learn to embrace it and GO. In a day and age where creative craft and DIY achievement and perfect party themes and gorgeous photos abound in the blog world, I think it is also good to remember there is never full disclosure.

But, er. I had a blast. And I will finish all the things I had planned on making for them sometime in the near future. Right after I find my second wind.
Birthday Party Take III
(Post-party face)

They are three! We find it hard to believe, but there it is. Onward, ho!

Full set of pictures here if you like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From death to birth.

Well, that is the way of it, isn’t it? In one way or another. This Saturday marks the third birthday of the boys and I have always meant to write out their birth story. It has alluded me over the past few years but I want to write it today before I blink and another three years pass by.


They were born on a Tuesday but their birth started months before that. I was almost 24 weeks when I felt my belly go into a round tight ball and I remember the sinking feeling I had in the pit of my stomach. The doctor asked me to come in for monitoring and Tim was at work so I brought my Mama for support. As I lay with the monitors strapped every which way I remember trying to decide who to bargain with to make this all right. And then I was off to Labor and Delivery, the first time I walked (or was rolled down) that hall but certainly not the last.

What followed was weeks of strict bed rest and medication, frequent trips to L & D, constant contraction monitoring, Baby stay in hypnosis CDs and daily meditation and the mantra in my head that they would not come; not at 24 or 26 or 30 or 32 weeks. They were long weeks, trying and scary but there were flashes of wonder despite the worry. There was the lovely shower my sisters arranged with generations of women gathered around my lounge chair. And seeing the wonderful job Tim did on the room that would someday become their bedroom. And watching and feeling as they grew and grew and grew.

And then it was Tuesday, April 24th. I had my visit with Dr. T in the afternoon, but I had been in and out of L & D three times that week. I was exhausted, worn from the medication, the terb spiking my heart rate up to the hundreds even lying down. Tuesday marked one day before my official 36th week, the goal I had set internally on that first day of pre-term labor. Tim helped me into the office, onto the plinth and we waited for Dr T, me crying from the stress of it all. He walked into our exam room, took a look at my face, took a swipe with the ultrasound and asked me if I had eaten lunch. Which, oddly, for the first time in a long time, I had. Well, he told us, than we cannot do the c-section until 8 or so, so go home and get your things and check into L & D at 6. And just like that, we were off back home to get ready to have our babies.

I think we both felt a little surreal on the ride home. So many weeks all I had thought about was keeping them in, keeping them safe and away from the stress of early delivery. And now we had a time and it was not far off at all. The family was waiting when we arrived home and everyone was excited and asking what they could do. Which was not much, just take some last pictures of me hugely pregnant, a wan tired smile on my face. We did not even have baby bags packed. I was so afraid to do that as I wanted to avoid any invitation for delivery. Plus I had no real idea of what they would need. And so we threw a few things into a bag for me and I gathered my copious knitting projects and in a few hours we were off to check into the hospital.

The nurses greeted us as always but this time they were not coaching me to keep babies in rather they could be excited they they were coming out. I think I knew at least 4 or the 6 nurses on duty that night. We went through the now familiar routine of hospital gown and IV, dual fetal monitors with Mason so deep in my pelvis that they had a hard time finding him (nothing new there). And we settled in to wait, listening as women were admitted and prepared themselves for their babies.

The wait was long, they had to have two OBs for the delivery and the second was running late. We talked a little, I knit and knit as always and finally they told us we would be moving to pre-op. One of my sweet nurses, a young-ish blond girl, looked at me curiously a few times as she ‘prepped’ me for the c-section. Then she asked me where I had worked in the past. It took a few minutes but we finally traced ourselves back to the same hospital where she had been a nursing student and I had been the PT to give in services to the nurse trainees. It felt so lovely to see her, a totally capable surgical nurse and know I had something to do with that. And I felt more connected and grounded as we started the alien process of surgical removal of my children.

I think it really hit us that the boys were coming in pre-op. I am not a huge fan of being on the patient side of the relationship and the talk with anesthesiologist made me feel shaky and scared…and I remember sending Tim out to call my parents and tell them the surgery time. Somehow we thought it would be better for them to wait until the surgery was done before coming to the hospital but in those ten minutes before, I just wanted my mama, someone to hold my hand and tell me it would all be just fine. Tim and I felt like scared teenagers trusted with too much responsibility.

And then off I went to pre-op to be numbed while my nurse gave me a big hug, to be prepared for these little people to join us. And it all went okay, details of this surgery are not terribly pleasant and Tim is not a hospital/surgery kind of guy and had to step out after the boys came and I kind of existed in a hazy panicky state until I heard the boys cry and they were pronounced perfectly healthy. I didn’t see them, did not even ask actually. I was watching Tim turn a little pale and calling the nurses to give him a hand and then he was gone and I was too. I felt it all became a bit too much and the lovely anesthesiologist was patting my shoulders and telling me to relax, that he would help me relax…relax….And that was all I remember.

They were born at 11:11 and 11:12 p.m. on Tuesday night April 24, 2007.

When I woke up I was in post-op and Tim was telling me I had to open my eyes and it was all so blurry and then I made out my Mama smiling at the end of the bed and Tim smiling and it was almost dark in there and there were no babies. I asked but the nurses told me they had to take them to the nursery. And then I started throwing up. A lot. Could not stop actually. You know what is not exactly fun? Throwing up after a C-section. Un-uh. Every nurse was trying to help but not much helped. And to make it worse I asked them every time they came in to bring me my babies and they patted me gently and told me 6 a.m…..we will bring them in the morning at 6 a.m. We promise.

That night was rough. I remember seeing my whole family in the hall as they wheeled me to my room with Tim, they were gathered at the nursery window, peeking in quietly at their new people. It was nice of the nurses to let them in at that hour but they could not come to see us. And so they went home too. And I think I slept a little and started to feel my legs (thank the blessed gods) and then threw up and then asked the nurses if it was 6. Over and over again.

And then it was morning and Heidi our day nurse came in wheeling two small bassinets and there they were. My people. My boys. She was a great nurse, explained how their night went and what we should and could do and all the little bits tucked into the drawers of the wheeled bassinet. And then she left. And there they were.

They were quite simply the smallest things I had ever seen. So tiny. It was unreal. Tim fished little Mason out and we looked at him in wonder. Then Owen. And then we looked at him too. And that feeling, that feeling of being an untrustworthy teen with precious cargo came rushing back and I wanted to call Heidi back and say you cannot possibly mean for us to keep them here? But then Tim gently changed Mason’s myconium dipe with assured hands and it started to feel more real and less surreal. We snuggled them together into the same bassinet because that seemed much more right and began the process of learning to be parents.

mama & owen
daddy & mason

That first day I could barely sit up, my arms felt like rubber and my legs like jello. But in those first few moments, delayed though they were from their actual birth, dissociated as the taking of them from my body felt, they became my people. Their names indelibly stamped into their being and my heart.

I think it has taken me this long to write because of how guilty I felt for the way that day ran…how I did not see them and hold them and touch them in those first minutes, first hours, first day. Birth for me was a medicalised process, one that I submitted to wholeheartedly. I had complete trust in the team that helped them come to be, but I can see now how unprepared I was for the experience. It is not like they give classes in how a c-section runs, right? And I did not realize just how badly my body would react to the event.

But of course the ending is a happy one. By the next day I was up and walking and learning about the boys and their needs and we stayed in the cozy supported comfort of one of the best hospitals I have ever seen for 5 days and took them home with too many issues (oh god, someday I will write about the car ride home). And of course the happiest ending is just beginning as they come to their third birthday…

But I am glad I finally wrote this.

Your Mama love you boys. So very, very much.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Our Mama Jill

This weekend was beautiful and yet really tough. And then really beautiful. Saturday we attended the memorial for our friend's mother. She passed away early April. She was 53. Her name was Jill and we have known her since our teen years. She and her husband Joe were always willing host to the teens kids we out looking for a good way to get wasted. They would take us in and make sure we did not leave and she would cook the most amazing meals and make sure we were fed and stayed out of trouble.
In memory :: jill

Her generous spirit made her that way, willing to take in us stray kids, too young for bars but too old to hang out in parks without getting busted. She loved us and we called her Mama Jill. She lived a little rough, loved her drink and her smokes, but man, that heart of hers. It was miles wide.

Until you crossed her and then she would turn into a wild cat. Some of the fights she and Joe had became legend. Like the time she threw all the clothes from his underwear drawer out on the lawn to mingle with the leftover carne asada she chucked out there too.

It did not ever occur to me that she was not too much older than I until recently. I met her at 18, right before Tim and I got together. Her sons are my age, she had her oldest in her early teens. Jay and Brett are some of the best men I know, solid and steady. Then she had Stevie later, her little girl, her baby.
In memory :: jill

She received the Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis in November. It was a total shock to everyone. Dizzy spells sent her into the hospital and she came home shortly after and chose hospice. I had an afternoon with her about two months ago...Tim entertained the boys with her horses and pig and giant back yard while she told me about pain and sores and pharmacists worried about her morphine intake lest she become addicted. She was glad to be at home, glad for the nurses and doctors that came to her, laughed a little at the make shift panic button her husband and boys had installed in all areas of the house. But it sucked, you know. We talked about that too. How much it sucks to be in so much pain, to have to say goodbye to your children and your much it just plain sucked. And then we laughed as she described the memorial she was planning for herself down to every detail.

In memory :: jill

Saturday there was a huge tent, a taco truck, her favorite rock band, a beautiful cake, kegs and a full bar. Because that is how that woman rolled. She ordered the family to talk about her for a little bit, then leave it and get drunk. And have some fun. It might have felt like a wedding except for the black table clothes and the frequent tears. It was hard, it was hardest when I thought about her as a Mama...when I hugged Stevie and felt that loss flow over me. But we were all there, those kids that we had been now morphed into spouses and parents and we talked about those days, when we had nowhere to go and Mama Jill took us in. She was and is one the greatest examples of a Mama.

In memory :: jill

Wild and funny and strong and stubborn and fearless and brash and loving and good. Oh, so good.

Miss you, Mama Jill. We love you very very much.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April :: Upon Arrival

Colors of a Rainy Day

The lovely thing about going in part is the coming back. Monday we had to return to the world of work and meal prep and going to bed too late and life in general without big wow! scenery, but Life here holds a different magic.
Colors of a Rainy Day

I swear when we arrived home they had grown 3 inches and acquired calculus skills. Well, maybe not that extreme, but still. Who left these little boys here and took my babies? Intuitively I know they left their baby-hood long ago and boys they shall be until some kind of other growth usurps that title, but still.
O's world

I love watching their world become layered with the nuance of play, to watch as they fall into endless hours of construction and destruction. Absorbed and occasionally oblivious to us. They waiver between the big legos and the small but they never waiver at the dumping of the boxes into unruly and unlimited piles of potential.
Colors of a Rainy Day

Someone told me these little boys turn three next week, but I find it hard to believe. And then they sit down a speak to me of all their things and days and thoughts and then I realize it is true.
Colors of a Rainy Day

Mama loves you, boys. So very much.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April :: Finding a Flow

Before Tim and I had kids we were wanderers. From job to job, place to place, state to state. Between us over the last 15 years we have been dozens of places. I am never so happy as when I wake somewhere else, usually with dirty hair but always clean hands.

But somehow in all those wanderings, we never found the Big Sur coast. It was always skipped in favor of a faster route that would take us further. This weekend certainly changed all that. And now we know what the writers and artists are all enamoured of....what the magic of that place feels like.
Monterey :: 4.10

It was one of those rare Flow experiences, where very little was planned but everything fell into its right place without effort. The moments of the day felt meant to be from my lovely meet up with Natalie Chanin in Berkeley to the wild storm we brought home on Sunday.

I will have to write more about the Chanin trunk show later, for now sufficed to say Natalie is one of the most gracious and lovely souls I have ever met and we chatted about small children, stitching, coast roads and 100 foot vaginas.
Chanin trunk show

Her slow Southern soft drawl just about slayed me. I spent an hour or so literally fondling the heaps of samples books, marveling at the precision and beauty on display. It was hard to leave but I am now resolved to spending a week in Alabama at one of her longer classes...damn the cost.

Then we headed out from Berkeley in the lovely afternoon sun, beating most of the weekend traffic and ended up in Monterey, smack dab in the middle of the city at a public campsite surrounded by trees, providing of hot showers and a raccoon visit or two. We made it to a fantastic beach with 30 minutes to spare before the sun dipped down to meet the ocean. Back in our former life we were sunset chasers, always searching for that special light that happens as we go into the gloaming of the night. Friday it just presented itself and we happily stayed on the beach shooting in the cold air until the light failed.

Monterey :: 4.10Monterey :: 4.10

Saturday we headed into Carmel with the intent of shooting the mission Carmel before heading south to Big Sur but we found ourselves with over an hour until the Mission doors opened. Signs on the small streets led us to estate/garage sales where we kept running into treasure after treasure :: phones and steins and free pristine cigar boxes and creepy Jack in the Boxes. After collecting as much as we could with the meager cash at hand, we headed into the Mission.

There is a set up here in Flickr if that sort of stuff interests you.
Carmel Mission
Carmel Mission

I could walk around a Mission all day and find cracks and crevices to shoot. It was quiet and we were able to play with the rented lens to heart's content...half the shots are Tim's but I never take the time to give the credit. If it is really good, it is his. See?
Carmel Mission
Carmel Mission

The rest of the day was spent on the coast...finding spots to stop and rest from the relentlessly winding road, finding moments to catch and hold. We rarely went far from the car as many hikes are closed due to fire damage, but we found enough. I have never declared myself an ocean person but how I love this ocean, this coast. I could feel a rich wild contentment seep into my bones as we walked on the coast, watched the grey and brilliant blue green meld and reform, listened to water rush.

Big Sur :: 4.10
Big Sur :: 4.10
Big Sur :: 4.10

Big Sur :: 4.10
Big Sur :: 4.10

And in all these moments of Flow I had time to look to this man, the partner that once wandered and then settled in with me, and that was a good good thing.
Big Sur :: 4.10

It has been a rough few months in the background and this was a balm and a gift. Far from honeymoon suite just sleeping in the back of the Subaru in a campground with hot showers. But that is how we do it...always have and probably always will. God, what a great man.
Big Sur :: 4.10

Now, of course, we are back home...home made all the sweeter and lovely and special for the having been away. It was oddly comforting to know we can still find that Flow, that place where we two fill it completely enough, that the children we have made have not created a void between, rather enriched the fabric of our lives. And upon return, finding a pair of boys excited that we had come back, chattering non stop about their weekend adventures and wondering heavily about ours.

Next month we are leaving for a month on the road....a different experience, I know. The pair of soon to be three year olds will guarantee a different trip...but I cannot wait. And I am hoping the Flow finds us somewhere along the road for that trip. Please god.

Full Big Sur set here.

And yes, we are ridiculous. And no, we were not drunk. Just giddy on kid-less-ness.
Big Sur :: 4.10

Thursday, April 08, 2010

April :: Points North

Tomorrow morning Tim and I are heading North for a few days. First to Berkeley to see Natalie Chanin and finally be able to touch and feel her work in person.

Then down down down the coast, Big Sur style. It might be a bit gloomy, cloudy, cool and rainy but I do not care. We need a little bit of a break from the norm right about now.

We are heading out with a rental lens. Canon 24-70 2.8. Last time we rented a lens we ended up buying it. Dangerous practice, this lens renting. I played with it a bit today to get the feel. Know what it feels like? Heavy. Whew. That thing packs on the pounds. But, oh, how I love the results.
Testing testing...
Testing testing...
Testing testing...
Testing testing...
(Mildly disturbing window installation in Pasadena)
Testing testing...
(Don't ask me why they are sitting on the sidewalk. Sigh.

And before we head out, I did manage to finish a task I set for myself. All birthday invites inked up and ready to be sent out. More on that next week.

See you Monday. Happy trails to you.